LOS ANGELES - A Hollywood skin-care expert boasting celebrity clients including Jennifer Aniston and Nicki Minaj pleaded not guilty Wednesday to plotting to have a business rival killed.
Dawn DaLuise, 55, is accused of trying to hire a former NFL player to kill Gabriel Suarez after mistakenly concluding that he was behind cyber-stalking rape threats against her.
She was arrested two weeks ago and held in lieu of US$1 million (S$1.27 million) bail, while a former friend who investigators allege was the real person behind the online threats was released on US$150,000 bail.
DaLuise, a former model, set up her Skin Refinery salon in West Hollywood. Among the "loyal clients" listed on her website were Hollywood actresses Alicia Silverstone, Christina Ricci and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Last July, she became aware of sexually-explicit flyers with her photo, as well as ads posted on Craigslist suggesting that she was looking for men to act out a rape fantasy.
DaLuise came to believe that they were posted by aesthetician Suarez, who had opened a shop a few doors down from Skin Refinery on Santa Monica Boulevard, offering facials and male body waxing.
LA County Sheriff's Department spokesman Mike Parker said DaLuise "began communications by text and phone calls with more than one person, in an effort to hire someone to kill the person she believed was trying to solicit rape against her."
According to court documents, the person she allegedly tried to hire was Chris Geile, who played in three games as an offensive lineman for National Football League (NFL) team the Detroit Lions in 1987.
Investigators arrested DaLuise on March 5 and she remains behind bars.
"She is culpable for soliciting someone to kill the victim," Shaun Mathers of the Sheriff's Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau said. "She believed it would be carried out."
Meanwhile investigators allege that Edward Feinstein, a former friend who allegedly fell out with DaLuise, distributed the flyers, posted the Craigslist ads and sent out mass emails.
Feinstein was arrested earlier this month and booked on suspicion of stalking. He was released on bail and is due in court again on May 14.
DaLuise is due back in court on April 17 for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for her to stand trial.